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Date: April 19th 1900
To
Mamie
From
Douglas M'Pherson
Letter

TRYING EXPERIENCES

AN INTERESTING LETTER FROM MR. DOUGLAS M'PHERSON

In the Paardberg Battle - A thrilling Account - A shot through his Haversack - What the Boys Endured.

Mr. Douglas McPherson, former Dutton boy, who is with the first Canadian contingent in South Africa, writes home the following letter:

PAARDBERG DRIFT, MARCH 3, 1900.

DEAR MAMIE, - You have heard all about our wanderings long before this no doubt. We have had plenty of fighting to suit everybody, and we all hope it requires no more. We have also found out that campaigning is no fun but hard work and very bad for one's health without the hard fighting we have had.

We started from Belmont on Sunday night, and while we were marching to the train not a sound was made, for we all felt that we were going to a dangerous part of the country. We bivouacked at Gras Pan that night and at three a.m. we started our march along with three other regiments which formed our brigade (the nineteenth). We had to carry two days' rations, emergency rations, overcoats and ammunition and when the heat of the day came we felt like dropping, and before we reached Ram's Dam about 80 had fallen out overdone with thirst. Here we got some very dirty water to drink, and some weak coffee with biscuits for supper.

Again at five we were off for the Riet River 14 miles away and it became terribly hot about 9.30. Still we plugged along, until about one o'clock, when we were halted and our company and D Company were sent about two miles away to reconnitre a kopje where we remained until the rear guard of the column had passed. The sun was terrible, not a cloud, not a speck of shade and among burning stones with no water. But even that ended and we stumbled, almost fainting, up to the banks of the river, where we stayed, eating nothing until after six o'clock at night except our hard tack biscuits. During the afternoon we dragged the naval guns across the river and at night we had soup. Next morning we had only nine miles to go, so we did that by 8.30 but had to furnish outposts on arriving, so we had no rest that night, and next morning we pressed on to Jacobsdal, where we had a good feed of meat and hoped for rest but had to go on twelve miles that night to the Modder River, all the time hoping to come up with Cronje and the Boers, but he was a veritable Will'o the Wisp to us. The next night we went twenty three miles to this place, arriving at 6 a.m. After a hasty drink of coffee and some rum to revive us we forded the Modder River and advanced on the enemy's position. At eight we were firing at the place where we saw smoke, for no Boers were visible, although only 500 yards from their trenches. Here we lay all day with the bullets whistling and cracking all around us and no cover except the ant hills which were far too scarce. Well, at about 5.30 p.m. we got the order to fix bayonets which was received with satisfaction, for we were being cut up very badly and were unable to move from our scanty cover all day. Well, we charged but we lay down where we were and when darkness came retired, but all night we were bringing in wounded. Next day, when the Boers left the position I went all through their trenches and the place seemed to me to be impregnable to anything but artillery, and my only wonder was that more of us were not killed.